Treadmills, exercise bikes, and ellipticals are some of the most popular home fitness solutions for good reason. They can be tailored to your personal speed, require little space, and work well for both long-range training and short bursts of HIIT.
But how does one choose between treadmill vs. elliptical vs. exercise bike? Read on for our comprehensive guide to each and comparison below.
Cardio exercise can come in many different forms, but the goal remains the same: Elevating your resting heart rate, which improves your circulation, strengthens lung capacity, and yields a higher caloric burn.
Gyms will often have an assortment of cardio equipment such as elliptical machines, treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, and stair climbers to choose from.
One of the most popular low-impact forms of exercise, cardio not only helps you lose weight, breathe more deeply, and improve your overall circulatory health. It can also help you sleep better, boost immune health, and lessen the chance of heart attack and stroke.
If you’d like to improve your overall health and lose weight, try comparing elliptical vs. exercise bike calories burned and giving cardio a try.
Pros & Cons of Using a Treadmill
Treadmills are one of our oldest styles of fitness equipment, meaning we have hundreds of years worth of proven results. Runners can run farther and faster thanks to the treadmill’s consistently smooth surface. The tread’s padding can also protect runners’ joints from impact stress, a major risk factor for running.
Modern models like Precor treadmills can even offer advanced cushioning, customizable incline controls, and smart-health programs with built-in workouts. Treadmill cardio exercise is excellent for improving lung function, strengthening calves, hamstrings, and quads.
Pros & Cons of Using An Exercise Bike
A stationary exercise bike applies the same premise as the treadmill to cycling. The lack of environmental factors — i.e., temperature, terrain, and wind force — makes it easier to reach higher speeds and have consistent workouts. Unfortunately, the loss of these varying factors is also part of what makes cycling so effective.
One con of exercise bikes is that they tend to have a lower caloric burn than cycling or using a treadmill, about 390 calories burned every 30 minutes compared to outdoor cycling’s 430 calories burned.
However, both forms of cycling will improve your overall circulatory health, burn fat, and engage your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, as well as your lower back and core. Exercises with stationary bike handles can also work your biceps, triceps, and shoulders.
Exercise Bikes Vs Treadmills: Cardio Machines Compared
No matter which equipment you use, the benefits of cardio exercise remain the same.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, sleep better, protect your joints from further stress, or just incentivize your workout habits without the threat of bad weather, cardio machines are a convenient addition to anyone’s fitness routine. These are just a few of the benefits;
It’s easy to burn calories without leaving the house, thanks to good quality treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes.
When comparing elliptical vs. exercise bike calories burned, riding an exercise bike for an hour burns 400 - 600 calories while an elliptical burns 500 - 800 calories.
But treadmills are our top pick for caloric burn, with an hour of use burning 700 - 1,000 calories depending on your speed and incline.
Any form of cardio can help those pursuing weight loss, but some machines are more effective than others. When comparing machines such as an exercise bike vs elliptical for weight loss, we recommend exercises that use your bodyweight, like ellipticals or treadmills.
This increases the intensity of your workouts, maximizing your weight loss more than the stationary support of exercise bikes. Treadmills work best of all for weight loss, thanks to the total weight-bearing motion they require.
People with Bad Knees
Joint stress is a serious risk associated with regular exercise, especially high-impact fitness such as weight training and running. Luckily, there are options for those of us with poor knees looking to remain fit without exacerbating our joints.
We recommend avoiding treadmills unless they have advanced cushioning systems, keeping your speed low to minimize impact, and setting a slight incline can all help. For the best support, try an exercise bike with padded sneakers and a supportive seat.
While cardio machines remove the threat presented by the outdoors, they’re not completely devoid of risk. You should always read your machine’s manual carefully before initial use, and be sure to follow best practices for the length and intensity of your workouts.
But when it comes to the overall risk of injury, treadmills caused 24,000 injuries in 2014 alone and have even resulted in death. Exercise bikes are safer, cause far fewer injuries, and minimize the risk presented by cycling in urban spaces.
Varying your workout not only prevents you from growing bored with your fitness routine but also engages a wider range of muscles. Cycling through various workouts helps develop different muscle groups, and the wider the machine's range of motion, the better.
Exercise bikes can allow for sprints, resistance training, HIIT, speed work, intervals, and more. But we’ve found treadmills allow for the freest motion, particularly treadmills with built-in training routines, adjustable incline, and custom speed settings.
If you choose to invest in a home cardio machine, you’ll want to make sure your model is worth the purchase. While it’s important to choose a quality treadmill, it’s also true that some machines are more predisposed to wear and tear.
Treadmill belts can often be worn down by regular impact, and their rotors need to be regularly maintained. We recommend exercise bikes as less likely to break down, but the seat may need to be regularly tightened, and the pedals need to stay lubricated.
Space & Energy Footprint
While some of us are lucky enough to have a designated home gym space, we prefer cardio machines that don’t take up the entire room.
Treadmills with longer and wider belts can do just that, but folding or wheeling models make it easier to stow against walls when not in use. Exercise bikes are comparatively smaller than folded treadmills when not in use, and many newer models can be folded even smaller and stowed in closets or beneath beds.
Ease of Use
For beginners and the balance-challenged alike, both exercise bikes and treadmills are simple enough to pick up. Most can simply hop on either and begin walking or pedalling within seconds.
But when it comes to the easiest machine to use for regular workouts, we recommend exercise bikes as gentler on the joints, safer to use, and more supportive of bodyweight via their seat and pedals.
How to Properly Exercise on a Treadmill
How to Properly Use Exercise Bikes
People Also Ask (FAQs)
What burns more: walking or cycling?
Since even casual cycling has a higher mph and better cardiovascular benefits, cycling burns more calories than walking.
Is cycling bad for knees?
Although the repetitive motion of pedalling can cause knee overuse issues, weight-bearing bike design makes cycling a low-impact exercise as compared to running.
What is better for abs: treadmill or bike?
Both cycling and running will help you lose weight, engage your core, and gain muscle definition. But treadmills burn more calories on average and can generally define your abs faster than bikes.
Is 30 minutes on a stationary bike enough?
30 - 60 minutes of cycling is enough for daily cardio exercise, but we recommend pushing the intensity of shorter workouts if you wish to see results.
Is it OK to ride a stationary bike every day?
Although light cycling can be gentler on your body than sprints, you should always give your body rest days between intense workouts. If you’re using HIIT training or marathon cycling sessions, give yourself lighter workouts 2 - 3 days out of the week.
How often should I walk or run on a treadmill?
Like cycling, walking on a high-quality treadmill is safe as a light daily workout. But we recommend only running 3 - 4 times a week, with resting or walking days in between.
Whether you’re born to run or have a passion for pedalling, exercise bikes and treadmills can help you lose weight, gain muscle, improve circulatory health, sleep better, and even lessen your chances of heart attack or stroke. No matter which machine you prefer, there’s no wrong way to get your heart pumping!